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Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Gillian O'Neill - an introduction


Meet our new guest blogger, Gillian she is here to tell us about her journey from uni life to being a graduate. Her first post is an introduction to herself and a little background. 

I still remember the day that I decided what I wanted to study at university.  It was one of the first days back at high school after the summer holidays, I was starting sixth year, and our Head of Year announced that our usual S.E. (Social Education) class would now be dedicated to university applications.  We were pointed towards the UCAS website, and told to begin
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This is rather unexpected, I remember thinking.  I had never really given much thought to the concept of life past high school.  Sure, I had thought of finishing high school (I was happily crossing off the days of my 2005/06 calendar at home), but beyond that? Beyond that was a big fat void.  I was suddenly faced with the prospect of my future - as if it had only just that moment burst into existence because I had granted it my attention - and I was a tad overwhelmed.

So, there I was, university prospectuses in hand, being told to pick a course.  I became panic stricken at the notion of planning out the next four years of my life in the same class that was usually reserved for finishing off last night’s homework and catching up with friends.  I relayed this thought process to my Head of Year (well, minus the pointlessness of SE as a class; I figured she wouldn’t quite see eye-to-eye with that part), and her reply was, “Well Gillian, what are you good at? What do you enjoy?”

But what was I good at? In the academic sense, the obvious answer was English.  Having completed my Higher Grade examinations that year, I had received an ‘A’ for English, a ‘B’ for both Drama and History, and a ‘C’ for Administration.  I hadn’t even managed to sit my Maths higher, after receiving 5% (yes, 5) in the preliminary exam.  English seemed to jump out as my strong suit.  It was, after all, my only ‘A’.  As far as what I enjoyed, that answer was in a similar vein; I liked to read and I liked to write.  And that, right there, was the entire thought process that led to my studying an English degree.  I was good at English, so I would study English.  I enjoyed writing, so I would study something I enjoyed.  It seemed logical.  Sensible.  Of course, I didn’t really consider where this degree would take me after university.  My future may have just turned into a real concept, but only insofar as the next end goal: graduating university.

In 2006, I received an unconditional place on an Arts & Social Sciences course at the University of Strathclyde, which became a single-honours in English in my final year.  I then graduated in 2011 with an upper-second class degree.

And so, in July 2011, I found myself staring into the same blank that had presented itself to me in high school; my future.  But it felt much more serious this time around.  This wasn’t higher education; this was a career, a living, a life.  I quickly realised I was now in the same place I had been six years prior – looking into my future, wondering how long it had been there and why I was only just noticing  it now.  Just like before.  And, just like before, all I knew was this: I loved the English language, and I loved to write.  So was that what lay in my future? English? And if so – how?

My university prospectus listed my future career prospects as being in areas such as local government work, teaching, social services and the voluntary sector, amongst many others.  But nothing stood out to me as “my career”.  And I still really wanted to incorporate my love of reading and writing.  So, I looked to my peers for direction.  Those who had actually made a decision all seemed to be going down the teaching route, whether it was through a postgraduate course to become a teacher, or taking a gap year to study abroad.  The teaching thing was clearly popular with us English grads, but seemingly not with me, as I cringed at the notion of returning to school and attempting to teach the beauty of the English language to the auto-correct generation.  Sure, there would be reading, but it would be for others.  And as for the writing aspect? I had visions of myself working long into the night (most likely clutching a bottle of wine) as I tried to translate the scrawls of an apathetic adolescent, red pen tearing through paper, a manic look in my eyes, and I feared for my future sanity.  Teaching was definitely not for me.  But then, what was?

Which brings us to the present.  As it stands, I have spent the last year applying for graduate jobs whilst simultaneously working temp jobs, retail jobs, call centre jobs (none of which have taken into account my love of reading and writing, sadly), and signing on for Job Seeker’s Allowance.  I am an atypical, modern day graduate, stuck in the University/Real-World limbo.

This introductory post has been just that; an introduction into how I came to be a graduate.  I plan on writing more blog entries for TARGETjobs, where I will share my personal experiences on seeking a graduate job, as well as discuss my dream job(s!), and also give my own advice to those at university, or are just about to start.  I hope you enjoyed my post, and hope you’ll return for more!

If you are unsure about your career options why not have a look at our careers report, which measures your strengths and weakness, and through other questions and answer can suss out which best careers are suited for you.